Welcome to the fifteenth annual "Best Free Reference Websites" list. This project has existed since the late 1990's. Fifteen years ago (1998), the Machine-Assisted Reference Section (MARS) of RUSA appointed an ad hoc task force to develop a method of recognizing outstanding reference websites. This task force became a formal committee at the 2001 ALA Annual Conference, and is appropriately named the MARS Best Free Reference Websites Committee.
As in the past, the 2013 list of winning sites will appear in this Fall issue of RUSQ. A link to this year's list of winners can also be found on the MARS webpage (www.ala.org/rusa/sections/mars/marspubs/marsbestfreewebsites/ marsbestref2013) along with a link to the "Best Free Reference Websites Combined Index," which provides, in alphabetical order, all entries from the current and previous fourteen lists. Committee members wrote succinct and insightful annotations for the Best Free Reference Websites List entries in the years the particular websites were selected for the lists. These annotations provide guidance for using the websites as reference tools. Once again, the committee considered free websites in all subject areas useful for ready reference and of value for most libraries.
The committee has established the following criteria for nominations:
* Quality, depth, and usefulness of content
* Ready reference
* Uniqueness of content
* Currency of content
* Authority of producer
* Ease of use
* Customer service
* Appropriate use of the web as a medium
More detailed explanation of the criteria can be found on the MARS webpage (www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/rusa/sections/mars/marspubs/marsbestrefcriteria.cfm).
As in previous years, the committee worked virtually, using email and the online bookmarking site Diigo (www.diigo.com). Each member nominated five to seven websites using the criteria specified above and then wrote brief annotations that would assist fellow committee members with reviewing and voting for their favorite nominated websites. The goal of this year's committee was to produce a final list with approximately twenty-five to thirty high-quality reference websites. It was another excellent year in terms of nominations. Over 70 websites were nominated and committee members were charged to vote for the best ones. After careful review, the committee members recognized twenty-six new Best Free Reference Websites for 2013.
Winning sites were notified electronically with a letter of recognition from the MARS Best Free Reference Websites Committee. These sites were invited to link to the online version of this list. The co-chairs also edited the annotations for the winning websites to ensure that they fit the criteria listed above.
BEST WEB WINNERS 2013
Census Bureau: Economic Indicators, www.census.gov/cgi-bin/briefroom/BriefRm
This Census Bureau website brings together the latest numbers for over a dozen key economic indicators, such as new residential construction, home ownership rates, and U.S. international trade on goods and services. The site's layout is simple and readable. There are links to the current press release about the indicators, links to historical data, and a quick comparison to last month's data.
Author/Publisher: Census Bureau
Date reviewed: 2/27/2013
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